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OUR VIEW: New lunch program on right track

We fondly remember the days of pizza, cheeseburgers and sticky macaroni-and-cheese at the school lunch counter.

Who could have guessed that today we'd be happily reminiscing about the good-old days of school-lunch food?

As noted in a Saturday report in The Daily Republic, school lunches have undergone quite a change in recent times. Veggies are the new norm. So are smaller portions, calorie counting and true adherence to the nutritional guidelines.

Gone are all-you-want butter and salt. Gone, too, are most of the fatty, high-calorie lunchtime mainstays of yesteryear.

Our kids may disagree, but we think the premise of the new lunch program is a great step in the direction of better health for our kids.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

In 2008, more than one-third of all American children and adolescents were overweight or obese. And the percentage of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. At the same time, adolescents who were obese increased from 5 percent to 18 percent during that time.

Such statistics are startling. Something needs to be done, and we always have figured the best place to start is school. As long as kids are there learning the three R's, why not teach them how to live longer, more healthful lives?

But not everyone is happy with these new lunchroom rules. As The Daily Republic noted Saturday, many complaints have arisen about how the smaller portions just aren't enough for the older kids, about how younger kids are getting too much healthy stuff pushed onto their plates and that the healthier foods are costing too much. And as complaints pile up, so has waste. It seems kids are throwing away more than they used to.

These are valid complaints, and while we do appreciate these new food guidelines, we also are happy that some are taking up the torch to fine-tune the program. U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, for instance, has written to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, expressing her worries that older kids aren't getting enough to eat.

If proven true, this has to change. Anyone who has teenagers in the house knows that they're constantly hungry and that their ability to cope with life's situations generally revolves around their ability to find sustenance.

We worry that pangs of hunger may cause concentration troubles in the classroom.

Healthier lunches are needed in our schools. Meanwhile, we fret that some kids aren't getting enough lunch to maintain their concentration level.

There must be a happy medium, and we urge leaders -- in schools and in Congress -- to keep pushing until they find it.